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SUPERNUMERARIES.

BY JOSEPH, BISHOP OF NORWICH.

SUPERNUMERARIES.

There is a satiety in all other, even the best, things, that I either have or do: I can be easily apt to complain of being wearied or cloyed with the same objects; but, in the thoughts of spiritual things, methinks, I can never have enough: for, as there is infinite scope and variety of matter, wherein to employ my meditations; so, in each one of them, there is such marvellous depth, that I should in vain hope, after all my exquisitest search, to reach unto the bottum. Yea, the more I look upon the Incomprehensi. ble Deity, in any one of his glorious attributes; or any one of his omnipotent works, of creation, government, redemption; the more I long to see, and the less am I satisfied in seeing. And now I find cause to bless that unspeakable goodness, that he hath vouchsafed to give leave to his unworthy creatures, to contemplate those excellent glories and those saving mysteries ; and think myself happy, in so gracious a liberty of exchanging these worthless thoughts of the world, for the dear and precious meditations of heavenly things: and now, how justly do I fall out with my wretched self, that I have given way to secular distractions ! Since my heart can be sometimes in heaven, why should it not be always there?

II. What is this that I see? my Saviour in an agony, and an angel strengthening him! Oh the wonderful dispensation of the Almighty! That the Eternal Son of God, who promised to send the Comforter to his followers, should need comfort! That he, of whom the voice from heaven said, This is my well-beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, should be struggling with his father's wrath even to blood! That the Lord of Life should, in a languishing horror, say, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death! These, these, O săviour, are the chastisements of our peace; which both thou wouldest suffer, and thy Father would infict. The least touch of one of those pangs would have been no less than a hell to me, the whole brunt whereof thou enduredst for my soul: what a wretch am I, to grudge a little pain from or for thee, who wert content to undergo such pressure of torment for me, as squeezed from thee a sweat of blood: since my miserable sinfulness deserved more load, than thou, in thy merciful compassion, wilt lay upon me; and thy pure nature and perfect innocence merited nothing but love and glory! In this sad case, what service is it, that an angel offers to do unto thee? Lo, there appears to thee an angel from heaven strengthening thee; Luke xxii. 43. Still more wonder! Art not thou the God of Spirits? Is it not thou, that gavest being, life, motion, power, glory to all the angels of heaven ? Shall there be need of one single created spirit, to administer strength and comfort to his Creator? Were this the errand, why did not all that blessed corps of celestial spirits join their forces together, in so high an employment ? Where are the multitudes of that heavenly host, which, at thy birth, sung Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace? Luke ii. 13, 14. Where are those angels, which ministered to thee, af. ter thy combat of temptations in the wilderness ? Surely, there was not so much use of their divine cordials in the desert, as in the garden. O my God and Saviour, thus thou wouldest have it. It is thy holy will, that is the rule and reason of all thine actions, and events. Thou, that wouldest make use of the provision of men for thy maintenance on earth, wouldest employ thy servants the angels for the supply of thy consolations; and thou, that couldest have commanded legions of those celestial spirits, wouldest be served by one : not, but that more were present, but that only one appeared: all the host of them ever invisibly attended thee, as God; but, as man, one only presents himself to thy bodily eyes: and thou, who madest thyself, for our sakes, a little lower than the angels (Heb. ii. 9.) which thou madest, wouldest humble thyself to receive comfort from those hands, to which thou gavest the capacity to bring it. It is no marvel, if that, which was thy condescent, be our glory and happiness. I am not worthy, O God, to know what conflicts thou hast ordained for my weakness : whatever they be, thou, that hast appointed thine angels to be ministering spirits for the behoof of them who shall be heirs of salvation, (Heb. i. 14.) suffer not thy servant to want the presence of those blessed emissaries of thine, in any of his extremities : let them stand by his soul, in his last agony; and, after a happy eluctation, convey it to thy glory.

III. Many a one hath stumbled dangerously, at a wicked man's prosperity : and some have fallen desperately into that sin, which they have seen thrive in others' hands. Those carnal hearts know no other proof of good or evil, but present events; esteeming those causes holy and just, which are crowned with outward success : not considering, that it is one of the cunningest plots of hell, to win credit to bad enterprises by the fairest issues : wherein, the Devil deals with unwary men, like some cheating gamester; who, having drawn in an unskilful and wealthy novice into play, suffers him to win awhile, at the first, that he may, at the last sweep away all the stakes, and some rich manors to boot. The foolish Benjaminites, having twice won the field, begin to please themselves with a false conceit of Gibeah's honesty, and their own perpetual victories; Judges xx: but they shall soon find, that this good speed is but a pitfall, to entrap them in an ensuing destruction. It is a great judgment of God, to punish sinners with welfare; and to render their lewd ways prosperous : wherein, how contrary are the Almighty's thoughts to theirs ! their seeming blessings are his heavy curse; and the smart of his stripes are a favour too good for them to enjoy. To judge wisely of our condition, it is to be considered, not so much how we fare, as upon what terms. If we stand right with heaven, every cross is a blessing; and every blessing a pledge of future happiness: if we be in God's disfavour, every of his benefits is a judgment; and every judgment makes way for perdition. For me, let it be my care, that my disposition may be holy, and my actions righteous : let God undertake for the event.

IV. It is no easy thing, to persuade a man that he is proud: every one professes to hate that vice; yet cherishes it secretly in his bosom. For, what is pride, but an over-weening of ourselves? and such is our natural self-love, that we can hardly be drawn to believe, that in any kind we think too well of our own. Now, this pride is ever so much more dangerous, as the thing which we over-prize is more excellent; and, as our mis-apprehension of it may be more diffusive. To be proud of gay clothes, which is childish; or, to be proud of beauty, which is a womanish vice; hath in it more fondness than malignity, and goes no further than the breast wherein it is conceived; finding no other entertainment in the beholders, than either smiles or envy: but the pride of knowledge or holy dispositions of the soul, as it is of a higher nature, so it produceth commonly more perilous effects; for as it pulfs up a man above measure, so it suffers not itself to be kept within the narrow bounds of his own thoughts, but violently bursts out to the extreme prejudice of a world of men. Only by pride cometh contention, saith wise Solomon; Prov. xiii. 10. Even purse-pride is quarrellous, domineer. ing over the humble neighbourhood, and raising quarrels out of trites; but the spiritual arrogance is so much more mischievous, as the soul is beyond all earthly pelf: for, when we are once come to advance and admire our own judgments, we are first apt to hug our own inventions, then to esteem them too precious to be smo thered within our own closets : the world must know of how happy an issue we are delivered, and must applaud it; or abide a contestation, and expect a challenge. The fairest paradoxes cannot pass, without a contradiction. It were strange, if some as bold and forward wits as our own should not take up the gauntlet. Now the fray is begun: the multitude is divided : sides are taken: the world is in an uproar: from skirmishes we grow to pitched fields : the Church bleeds on both parts; and it were marvel, if kingdoms could be free. But that, which most notably evinceth the deceitfulness of man's heart in this behalf, is, that this pride is too often lodged in those breasts, which are professedly devoted to a godly and mortified lowliness : for, as for those persons which are mere flesh, they are carelessly indifferent to error or truth, neither are at all moved with the success of either; but the religious mind, when it is once possessed with the conceit of some singular and important truth revealed to it and hid from the rest of the world, is ready to say with the Samaritan lepers, I do not well; this day is a day of good tidings, and I hold my peace ; 2 Kings vii. 9. and therefore makes it matter

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